The EU policy framework for energy efficiency of existing buildings

Created by M. ECONOMIDOU
Policies and Targets

The energy saving potential of the building sector in the EU has enjoyed increasing attention in recent years. Modernising the building sector is also attached to a number of important benefits for many actors in society. It results in reduced energy bills, increased disposable income and improved indoor comfort levels for households. For firms, greater energy efficiency translates to increased productivity and competitiveness, while for governments more jobs, lower public expenditures and higher energy supply security stemming from these investments are all highly sought-after goals especially in current economic circumstances (Ryan & Campbell, 2012).

Realising the potential associated with the building sector requires addressing both new and existing buildings. With estimates showing that an approximate 75% of the current EU building stock will be still standing in 2050 1 existing buildings are at the forefront of the challenge (Urge-Vorsatz, et al., 2012). 

With the right set of policy tools, it is generally accepted that governments can play a crucial role in promoting energy efficiency and leveraging more investments in the building sector, especially in the existing stock. Indeed there is a wide range of policies at EU level which require Member States to set a number of regulatory, informative and economic measures with the aim to improve the energy performance of buildings.

The following European directives require Member States to set up policy tools and measures addressing the existing building stock.

Energy Performance of Buildings Directive

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (Directive 2002/91/EC) has been the main policy driver for reducing energy use for heating, cooling, ventilation, hot water and lighting in buildings. The directive requires the application of a methodological framework for calculating the energy performance of buildings. It has allowed Member States to set minimum energy performance requirements for both new and existing buildings and request the upgrade of existing buildings to meet the minimum energy performance levels upon “major renovations”. As part of this directive, Member States have also implemented certification systems which inform the potential buyer or tenant about the energy class of their building and provide recommendations for a cost optimal improvement of its energy performance.

Recast in 2010

With a recast in 2010, the revised Directive (Directive 2010/31/EU) introduced a harmonised calculation methodology to increase the stringency of MS minimum energy performance requirements and push them towards a cost-optimal level.

Energy Services and Energy Efficiency Directives

The Energy Services Directive (2006/32/EC), replaced by the Energy Efficiency Directive in 2012 (2012/27/EU) also includes a number of measures targeting energy efficiency improvements in buildings. These include establishing long-term strategies for the renovation of national building stocks as well as undertaking renovation of 3% of the total floor area of all central government-owned public buildings annually from 2014 onwards. Energy efficiency obligations are another important tool which leverages investments from companies in the energy sector. Energy providers are requested to reduce energy use among their customers by the equivalent of 1.5% of final energy consumption per year. Member States are obliged to adopt an indicative national energy efficiency target in 2020, where significant savings are expected to accrue from the building sector. Promotion of the energy services market through the provision of model contracts, exchange of best practice and guidelines, in particular for the public sector, are also included. These along with other measures stipulated by the main elements of the directive, should be reported in the National Energy Efficiency Action Plans and are expected to have a significant impact on the energy efficiency of existing buildings.

Other European directives

With a focus on the building electricity, heating and hot water consumption, the Directives 2009/125/EC and 2010/10/30 address mandatory minimum energy efficiency and labelling requirements for energy-related products. The European Directive (2009/125/EC) establishes a framework for setting eco-design requirements for energy-related products aiming to increase their energy performance throughout their life time, while the Energy Labelling Directive (2010/10/30) sets out energy labelling requirements which can help consumers choose and industry to develop more energy-efficient products.

  • 1. New constructions roughly add 1% to the existing stock every year
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